Dawodu Adeola is a licensed Canada-based Realtor, who also has a decade wealth of experience in diverse sectors including agriculture, importing and exporting. In this interview with INIOBONG IWOK, he speaks on the African Farmers Online (AFO) initiatives and how the organisation is making progress. Excerpt:
May we know what AFO is all about?
Africans are farmers and we at African Farmers Online, a Canadian Incorporation, are on a mission to do good by empowering and bringing all farmers in Africa online, using technologies and Agriculture.
We are not just a marketplace, we engage the youths, create employment and entrepreneurs, just as we meet needs in the communities by creating, promoting and providing Agro-services that are beyond digital farming. Our Agro operations reinforce each other, creating a powerful network of assets, skills and systems. In every African country, with a great deal of careful planning, communication, and local involvement, we plan and carry out boots-on-the-ground agricultural related services to accomplish our objectives as an Agro service company.
As we speak, we are finalizing arrangements to start operations in Kenya, Ghana and currently we operate in Nigeria as AFO Agro service limited.
It is a for-profit, community and economic development non-governmental private limited company incorporated under the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990 with the Corporate Affairs Commission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria combining local expertise, insight and global capabilities to deliver outstanding results.
Not only that, we also own a repository for all African plants and hope to partner with the relevant academic and government agencies in Africa on that.
What’s the benefit in this for Africa?
The whole world is running a digital economy and this has changed the game for agriculture in Africa. African farmers determine the continent’s digital farming story and it is a known fact that African small holder farmers, most of whom have access to less than two acres of land, produce more than 80% of the food in sub-Saharan Africa.
Our technology and services allow for genuine collaborations with them and other sectors allowing for a huge success and benefit from the digital revolution. If we evaluate the benefits by economic value, our services and technologies foster innovation, market-linkages and knowledge-sharing thereby helping to create employment as well as raising new entrepreneurs which in turn promote economic activities hence reduction of poverty.
These benefits are enjoyed by all and not limited to digital entrepreneurs, smallholder farmers and rural populations. Through access to digital technology, the distance between a remote farmer and the market is shorter than a straight line.
With a click, the buyer several miles away in either Europe or Asia buys in an instant by connecting to that smallholder farmer who is the backbone of most of the African economies. We are able to go into strategic partnerships with major stakeholders thereby ensuring we operate at every stage in the agricultural value chain.
This in turn allows us to give the right support and encouragement so that Africans can lift themselves out of poverty. A hub of all African Farmers puts Africa on good radar and makes it easy for buyers and sellers irrespective of their geographical location.
In a nutshell, we help in farm activities which in turn prevent mass hunger. Whether you call it digital farming or smart farming, we are a solid improvement and a formidable part of the change that has the potential to bring about a big change on how farming is conducted and managed on the African continent. In turn, Africa as a continent benefits, in terms of minimizing hunger and poverty, we also create employment for the youths with this program.
How do you fund this seemingly large project?
Anything good costs money and the secret to getting ahead in life is to get started. We went to the classic, bootstrapping and started as a small business and hope to get ahead by growing into the big market when we have the required funds and partnerships because this is a huge online and technology -oriented venture that is destined to reach a large global market of which we do not have the required funding to launch our technologies and carry out other export related businesses.
Presently in Nigeria we have trademarked Owambe as a brand name and currently working on NAFDAC certification for a wide range of consumer goods and products for both local and export markets. Even though we do not want to borrow, in order for us to scale we are considering and open to business loans, crowd-funding, local contests and seeking strategic partnerships and grants.
How do you key in local farmers to AFO?
In Nigeria, we intend to have territory managers who then work with associates in all the 774 local governments in Nigeria. These associates are preferably Youth Corps members. We hope to get a strategic partnership with the Corps Welfare and Inspectorate Department. This team then works hand in hand with local farmers in all 774 local governments in Nigeria.